Constitution of the United States/Art. I/Sec. 8/Clause 10 Maritime Crimes

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Constitutional Law Outline
Introduction
The Preamble
Article I Legislative Branch
Art. I, Section 1 Legislative Vesting Clause
Art. I, Section 2 House of Representatives
Art. I, Section 3 Senate
Art. I, Section 4 Congress
Art. I, Section 5 Proceedings
Art. I, Section 6 Rights and Disabilities
Art. I, Section 7 Legislation
Art. I, Section 8 Enumerated Powers
Art. I, Section 9 Powers Denied Congress
Art. I, Section 10 Powers Denied States
Article II Executive Branch
Art. II, Section 1 Function and Selection
Art. II, Section 2 Powers
Art. II, Section 3 Duties
Art. II, Section 4 Impeachment
Article III Judicial Branch
Art. III, Section 1 Vesting Clause
Art. III, Section 2 Justiciability
Art. III, Section 3 Treason
Article IV Relationships Between the States
Art. IV, Section 1 Full Faith and Credit Clause
Art. IV, Section 2 Interstate Comity
Art. IV, Section 3 New States and Federal Property
Art. IV, Section 4 Republican Form of Government
Article V Amending the Constitution
Article VI Supreme Law
Article VII Ratification
First Amendment: Fundamental Freedoms
Religion
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Free Speech Clause
Freedom of Association
Second Amendment: Right to Bear Arms
Third Amendment: Quartering Soldiers
Fourth Amendment: Searches and Seizures
Fifth Amendment: Rights of Persons
Sixth Amendment: Rights in Criminal Prosecutions
Seventh Amendment: Civil Trial Rights
Eighth Amendment: Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Ninth Amendment: Unenumerated Rights
Tenth Amendment: Rights Reserved to the States and the People
Eleventh Amendment: Suits Against States
Twelfth Amendment: Election of President
Thirteenth Amendment: Abolition of Slavery
Thirteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude
Thirteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection and Other Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 1 Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 2 Apportionment of Representation
Fourteenth Amend., Section 3 Disqualification from Holding Office
Fourteenth Amend., Section 4 Public Debt
Fourteenth Amend., Section 5 Enforcement
Fifteenth Amendment: Right of Citizens to Vote
Fifteenth Amend., Section 1 Right to Vote
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Sixteenth Amendment: Income Tax
Seventeenth Amendment: Popular Election of Senators
Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition of Liquor
Eighteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement of Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Nineteenth Amendment: Women's Suffrage
Twentieth Amendment: Presidential Term and Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 1 Terms
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Twentieth Amend., Section 3 Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 4 Congress and Presidential Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 5 Effective Date
Twentieth Amend., Section 6 Ratification
Twenty-First Amendment: Repeal of Prohibition
Twenty-First Amend., Section 1 Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
Twenty-First Amend., Section 2 Importation, Transportation, and Sale of Liquor
Twenty-First Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Second Amendment: Presidential Term Limits
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 1 Limit
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 2 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Third Amendment: District of Columbia Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 1 Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Abolition of Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 1 Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 1 Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 2 Vice President Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 3 Declaration by President
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 4 Declaration by Vice President and Others
Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Reduction of Voting Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 1 Eighteen Years of Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Congressional Compensation

Article I Legislative Branch

Section 8 Enumerated Powers

Clause 10 Maritime Crimes

Clause Text
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

Historical Background on Maritime Crimes[edit | edit source]

"When the United States ceased to be a part of the British empire, and assumed the character of an independent nation, they became subject to that system of rules which reason, morality, and custom had established among civilized nations of Europe, as their public law. . . . The faithful observance of this law is essential to national character. . . ."[1] These words of the Chancellor Kent expressed the view of the binding character of international law that was generally accepted at the time the Constitution was adopted. During the Revolutionary War, Congress took cognizance of all matters arising under the law of nations and professed obedience to that law.[2] Under the Articles of Confederation, it was given exclusive power to appoint courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, but no provision was made for dealing with offenses against the law of nations.[3] The draft of the Constitution submitted to the Convention of 1787 by its Committee of Detail empowered Congress "to declare the law and punishment of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and the punishment of counterfeiting the coin of the United States, and of offences against the law of nations."[4] In the debate on the floor of the Convention, the discussion turned on the question as to whether the terms, "felonies" and the "law of nations," were sufficiently precise to be generally understood. The view that these terms were often so vague and indefinite as to require definition eventually prevailed and Congress was authorized to define as well as punish piracies, felonies, and offenses against the law of nations.[5]

Definition of Maritime Crimes and Offenses[edit | edit source]

The fact that the Constitutional Convention considered it necessary to give Congress authority to define offenses against the law of nations does not mean that in every case Congress must undertake to codify that law or mark its precise boundaries before prescribing punishments for infractions thereof. An act punishing "the crime of piracy, as defined by the law of nations[,]" was held to be an appropriate exercise of the constitutional authority to "define and punish" the offense, since it adopted by reference the sufficiently precise definition of International Law.[6] Similarly, in Ex parte Quirin,[7] the Court found that by the reference in the Fifteenth Article of War to "offenders or offenses that . . . by the law of war may be triable by such military commissions . . .," Congress had "exercised its authority to define and punish offenses against the law of nations by sanctioning, within constitutional limitations, the jurisdiction of military commissions to try persons for offenses which, according to the rules and precepts of the law of nations, and more particularly the law of war, are cognizable by such tribunals."[8] Where, conversely, Congress defines with particularity a crime which is "an offense against the law of nations," the law is valid, even if it contains no recital disclosing that it was enacted pursuant to this clause. Thus, the duty which the law of nations casts upon every government to prevent a wrong being done within its own dominion to another nation with which it is at peace, or to the people thereof, was found to furnish a sufficient justification for the punishment of the counterfeiting within the United States, of notes, bonds, and other securities of foreign governments.[9]

Extraterritorial Reach[edit | edit source]

Since this clause contains the only specific grant of power to be found in the Constitution for the punishment of offenses outside the territorial limits of the United States, a lower federal court held in 1932[10] that the general grant of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction by Article III, Section 2, could not be construed as extending either the legislative or judicial power of the United States to cover offenses committed on vessels outside the United States but not on the high seas. Reversing that decision, the Supreme Court held that this provision "cannot be deemed to be a limitation on the powers, either legislative or judicial, conferred on the National Government by Article III, § 2. The two clauses are the result of separate steps independently taken in the Convention, by which the jurisdiction in admiralty, previously divided between the Confederation and the states, was transferred to the National Government. It would be a surprising result, and one plainly not anticipated by the framers or justified by principles which ought to govern the interpretation of a constitution devoted to the redistribution of governmental powers, if part of them were lost in the process of transfer. To construe the one clause as limiting rather than supplementing the other would be to ignore their history, and without effecting any discernible purpose of their enactment, to deny to both the states and the National Government powers which were common attributes of sovereignty before the adoption of the Constitution. The result would be to deny to both the power to define and punish crimes of less gravity than felonies committed on vessels of the United States while on the high seas, and crimes of every grade committed on them while in foreign territorial waters."[11] Within the meaning of this Section, an offense is committed on the high seas even when the vessel on which it occurs is lying at anchor on the road in the territorial waters of another country.[12]

  1. 1 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law 1 (1826).
  2. 19 Journals of the Continental Congress 315, 361 (1912); 20 id. at 762; 21 id. at 1136-37, 1158.
  3. Article IX.
  4. 2 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 168, 182 (Max Farrand ed., 1937).
  5. Id. at 316.
  6. United States v. Smith, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 153, 160, 162 (1820). See also The Marianna Flora, 24 U.S. (11 Wheat.) 1, 40-41 (1826); United States v. Brig Malek Abhel, 43 U.S. (2 How.) 210, 232 (1844).
  7. 317 U.S. 1 (1942).
  8. 317 U.S. at 28.
  9. United States v. Arjona, 120 U.S. 479, 487, 488 (1887).
  10. United States v. Flores, 3 F. Supp. 134 (E.D. Pa. 1932).
  11. United States v. Flores, 289 U.S. 137, 149-50 (1933).
  12. United States v. Furlong, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 184, 200 (1820).